NHL on NBCSN: Hurting Red Wings host Flyers on Rivalry Night

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Detroit Red Wings host the Philadelphia Flyers at Joe Louis Arena at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

All of a sudden, things have become bleak for the Detroit Red Wings.

Pavel Datsyuk was already out after being elbowed in the head by Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen and now they’re without captain Henrik Zetterberg due to a back injury that’ll have him on the shelf for at least a couple weeks.

With other starters like Danny DeKeyser and Todd Bertuzzi banged up as well, it’d be easy for the Red Wings to sit around and feel bad about themselves. Instead, they head into their game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday riding a four-game winning streak, as well as five of their last six, and sitting just three points back of Boston for the Atlantic Division lead.

Getting them through the tough times are a handful of guys you may not have expected. Goalie Jonas Gustavsson has played exceptionally this season including winning three of the last four games. That fourth win was a shutout from Jimmy Howard. Sometimes things just work out like that.

Forwards Darren Helm, Daniel Alfredsson, and recent AHL recall Gustav Nyquist have picked up the offensive slack with Helm and Nyquist turning into goal-scorers. Helm has seven goals in 14 games and Nyquist has four goals in the six games he’s played this season. Now that he’s not heading back to the minors, getting Nyquist back in as injury disaster struck has turned into a god-send.

With everything coming up roses at the moment, you wonder when fortune might start going against the Red Wings. If you’re a believer in karma, perhaps their play is making up for the injuries to their two superstars.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $2,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $400. Starts Wednesday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

As for the Flyers, we got a look at them on Monday night during their 2-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Philly had been on a roll previous to that loss as they’ve turned their season around since the brutal start that cost Peter Laviolette his job and ushered in Craig Berube.

That loss to Minnesota saw Ray Emery wind up the fall-guy in goal meaning Steve Mason likely gets the call tonight. We discussed Mason’s numbers this season back on Monday and they’ll need him to stand tall to keep the Wings at bay.

With Claude Giroux getting his groove back, things should be looking up for the Flyers. Of course, things don’t always go as planned. Vincent Lecavalier missed Monday’s game due to an issue with a back spasms. With him leading the team in goals, you can understand a bit better why they were shutout.

Now that these two teams are Eastern Conference foes, revisiting what made them rivals for at least one postseason back in 1997 makes it seem like doubly ancient history. It also means having to see this highlight a couple more times a year.

Stars give Lindell two-year extension

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More news out of Dallas, where the Stars have signed defenseman Esa Lindell to a two-year, $4.4-million contract extension.

From the release:

Lindell, 23, posted 18 points (6-12=18) in 73 games played for Dallas during the 2016-17 regular season, his first full season in the NHL. He finished second on the team by averaging 21:52 of time on ice per game and his +8 plus/minus rating finished third. Additionally, he finished second on the team with 119 blocked shots and tied for fifth with 93 hits.

The Stars still have a couple of restricted free agents on the back end. Both Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak are arbitration-eligible. Lindell was not.

Earlier today, it was reported that the Stars were buying out goalie Antti Niemi.

Dallas also signed forward Mark McNeill to a one-year, two-way contract extension. The 24-year-old was acquired from Chicago in the Johnny Oduya trade on Feb. 28.

Lightning extend Gourde — two years, $2 million

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Yanni Gourde has cashed in on an impressive 20-game cameo with Tampa Bay this season.

Gourde signed a two-year, $2 million extension on Monday, the Bolts announced. The deal came after the 25-year-old scored six goals and eight points in 20 games, while averaging 15:22 TOI per night.

Undrafted out of the Quebec League, Gourde has been a terrific AHL player since catching on with the Tampa Bay organization a few years ago.

He was instrumental in Syracuse’s run to the Calder Cup final this year — scoring 27 points in 22 games — and, given his new deal is of the one-way variety, seems primed to spend next year with the Lightning.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to sign that kind of a deal knowing where I’ve come from,” Gourde said, per NHL.com. “It’s the organization that trusted me very early in my career, and I thank them for that.”

Carolina’s strategy of flipping picks for players ‘just didn’t pan out’

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In late May, the ‘Canes looked like a team primed to trade some draft picks.

GM Ron Francis kicked off proceedings by sending one of his 11 picks — a third-rounder — to Chicago for goalie Scott Darling. Shortly thereafter, Francis said his club had “the open for business sign out there,”suggesting he was ready to wheel and deal.

But said wheeling and dealing never occurred.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping to take a few less picks,” Francis said after he selected nine players at the draft, per ‘Canes Country. “We’d had a lot of discussions about trying to move picks for players, but it just didn’t pan out the way we had hoped.”

Prior to landing in Chicago, it was obvious the goal for Francis and head coach Bill Peters was to add pieces that’d help get the ‘Canes back into the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The team has shown steady improvement over the last three years — going from 30 to 35 to 36 wins — and had a nice late push before ultimately falling short this season.

“I think we have specific needs, very specific needs,” Peters said at Carolina’s end-of-year media availability. “So as a coach I’m going to give very specific names.”

As many clubs experienced at the draft, trades weren’t easy to orchestrate. It was a stark contrast to the flurry of action that proceeded the event — Jonathan Drouin to Montreal, Jordan Eberle to the Islanders, huge shakeups in both Arizona and Chicago.

The perceived weakness of said draft could’ve played a role in the lack of movement. It’s also worth noting that Francis did use one of his picks, a fifth-rounder, for Vegas to select Connor Brickley at the expansion draft.

And, to be clear, this doesn’t mean Carolina still can’t add players. Free agency opens on Saturday. But draft weekend certainly feels like an opportunity missed, given this year’s UFA market doesn’t project to be very strong.

Report: Stars to buy out Antti Niemi

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The Antti Niemi era in Dallas is mercifully over.

Per Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, the Stars will place Niemi on waivers for the purposes of buying out the final year of his contract. The buyout will result in a $1.5 million cap hit in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Niemi, 33, joined the Stars in 2015 with the hope he’d form an effective tandem with Kari Lehtonen.

But the experiment was a dismal failure. In 85 games over two seasons, Niemi registered a .900 save percentage, and the Stars responded last month by signing Ben Bishop to a six-year contract worth almost $30 million.

GM Jim Nill had hoped that one of Niemi or Lehtonen could be traded in the wake of the Bishop signing.

Lehtonen, 33, is still under contract for another year at a cap hit of $5.9 million. He had a .902 save percentage last season, higher than Niemi’s .892.